Friday, November 18, 2016

What are your biggest business concerns for 2017?

New sick leave and wage laws will impact your small business


The recent change to Washington's minimum wage and sick leave law may have a significant impact on small businesses in Eastern Washington. Most business owners will need to evaluate operations, personnel, policies and their accounting software.

In a nutshell, Initiative I-1433 requires Washington State employers to increase minimum wage (starting Jan 1, 2017) and also provide paid safe/sick leave for employees (by 2018). As of November 18th, Labor & Industries has not updated the 2017 Minimum Wage Notice on the website, but you can read more here.  

Seattle Times, 11.08.16
The City of Spokane recently enacted a similar safe and sick leave ordinance starting in 2017.

The Initiative calls for:
  • raising minimum wage to $11.00 (2017)
  • $11.50 (2018)
  • $12.00 (2019)
  • $13.50 (2020)
  • and requiring employers to provide employees with paid sick leave to care for the health of themselves and their families."


Source: Washington Employment Security Department
Emily Eng, The Seattle Times

Business owners will have numerous issues to address, such as:


*Budgeting/forecasting to account for the increases

*Pricing adjustments

*Knowing costs, COGS, percentages of key expenses (year-to-year comparison)

*Looking at personnel - (changing employees to independent contractors will not work)

*Apprentice/intern programs - is there a way to pay lower than minimum wage and develop work skills?

*Vendor relationships

*Personnel manual

*Public relations - how do you inform your customers/clients that you are increasing prices as a direct result?

*Accounting software: if you are not using Quickbooks, how will you track sick leave?

*What can be automated? If it is a restaurant, should you evaluate the use of tablets or automated ordering systems or ordering online?

*If you are in a hospitality industry, can you visit a 'green policy' and reward guests with a room or restaurant credit for not choosing to have rooms serviced on a daily basis?

*What positions can be eliminated? Do you need a receptionist? Do you have good job descriptions? Can you cross-train employees?

*How will you manage when people call in sick to care for a family member or themselves?

I'm so confused, where do I start?

First, find out what is required from the City, State or other agency. Talk with your business advisor on how to forecast for increased wages, create a personnel manual or even understand what is required. If we get enough interest, we can bring in a speaker or trainer on any of these topics.

If you have been thinking about implementing other policies, such as cell phone or social media, now is an opportune time. 

Do you need a
social media policy?
For example, perhaps you had a laid-back management style regarding use of Facebook on a work-owned computer and relied on the honor system that employees would use it occasionally. Now it is to the point of distraction and cutting into productivity. You, as the employer, can implement a policy or personnel manual to address the expectations and usage of personal use on business equipment. Personal use of company-owned property could also expose private information like health records to a security breach. A good place to start is with a Personnel manual if you do not have one in place. 


Summary
The most important thing is to not ignore these issues and requirements. Claiming that you didn't know could result in stiff penalties or fines, employee dissent or even lawsuits. Some of this boils down to what kind of business owner are you or do you want to be? Your staff and customers can make or break a business, it is important to retain both of them.




Monday, November 14, 2016

Client Spotlight: Falling River Soap Holiday Open House

Printed with permission from Beverly Hill-Kleinsten, Owner, Falling River Soap

Local organic soap and skin care company debuts products at fall open house
Certified organic products made in Northwest

Beverly Hill-Kleinstein, owner of Falling River Soap, will be debuting her organic line of products at an open house on Friday, November 18th.

Falling River Soap is a woman-owned business located in Spokane. 

Hill-Kleinstein has developed and refined the formulas over the years. “These products are excellent for people of all ages that have skin or scent sensitivities or are concerned about toxins and chemicals”, comments Hill-Kleinsten. “This business grew out of a passion to educate and share what I’ve learned about organic and natural skin care”.

Merchandise for sale includes certified organic soap and other skin care supplies such as, body wash scrubs, facial oil and moisturizers. The company is working with a certified organic manufacturer in the Northwest to produce product based on Hill-Kleinsteins recipes. 

Many of the products are certified organic and all items are hand-packaged and shipped from her Spokane location.


Falling River Soap Holiday sale and open house details:

Date/Time: November 18th, 6:00 to 9:00 p.m., 
Location:    Kendall Yards Welcome center, 1335 Summit Parkway.

This is a special opportunity for locals to find unique, hand-crafted products in time for the holidays and meet the owner. Purchases can also be made online at www.fallingriversoap.com.

CONTACT:
Beverly Hill-Kleinstein

Falling River Soap and skin care
Phone: 509.701.8500

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Poll Results: How do you feel about meetings?

Just for fun, we included a poll in our latest newsletter.

This was the poll (image only):



TAKE THE POLL AND VIEW RESULTS!


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

SBDC advising helps boutique owner add retail store for tourist products

This is a great story out of Sequim. One of my colleagues helped a client start a second, unique business operation. The onwer had a women's boutique and frequently had requests for tourist souvenirs and local products. There wasn't one in town, so she took the initiative and started Forage Gifts and Northwest Treasures.
Store front, Sequim, WA
SEQUIM, Wash. – Theresa Rubens is a third-generation resident of Sequim whose grandchildren attend the same schools she and her husband once did. She knows as much about her community as anyone, but she didn’t know where a visitor could buy a Sequim souvenir. And that, she said, was a problem.
When a 1,000-square-foot retail space became available in the main downtown core, just two doors down from her women’s boutique and retreat, Solar City, she knew the time was right to create a shop for Sequim-branded souvenirs and gifts, Forage Gifts & Northwest Treasures (http://www.foragegifts.com/).

Read more: https://news.wsu.edu/2016/07/27/gift-shop-finds-treasure-free-business-advising/
By Hope Belli Tinney

Thursday, September 15, 2016

5 upcoming changes-laws-trends that will impact YOUR small business

We will have more updates as these issues progress, but here are five things to keep an eye on. Chances are, at least one of these will impact YOUR Washington small business. 


  1. New US Department of Labor overtime rule: Changes to overtime pay exemption effective December 1, 2016
  2. City of Spokane Earned Safe and Sick Leave Ordinance
  3. WA State ballot initiatives: Increase minimum wage starting in 2017
  4. Cybersecurity and small business
  5. Washington State Driver's License - REAL ID non-compliant

1. New US Department of Labor overtime rule: Changes to overtime pay exemption effective December 1, 2016

Think your salaried
employees are exempt?
Better make sure.
Effective December 1, 2016 exemptions from Federal minimum wages rules may increase the number of your employees eligible for overtime pay rates.

What changes on December first is the limit on when exempt position are eligible for overtime pay. The annual wages limit will double from $23,660 to $47,476.

Any employee positions classified as exempt should be reviewed and reclassified to non-exempt and thus will be eligible of overtime pay.

Job positions that are already eligible for overtime pay are not affected. 

Read more...


2. City of Spokane Earned Safe and Sick Leave Ordinance

The City of Spokane passed a Safe and Sick Leave ordinance that goes into effect January 2, 2017. Any business in the Spokane city limits is impacted:
Are you ready for
flu season?

  • Beginning on January 1, 2017, employees of companies which have fewer than 10 employees can use 24 hours of paid sick and safe leave in a year. 
  • Employees of companies which have 10 or more employees can use 40 hours of paid sick and safe leave in a year. 
  • Employers can allow employees to use more, however, depending upon company policy. 
  • Employers can accrue this time on a fiscal year or calendar year basis.

The earned sick and safe leave ordinance will be in effect for all employers in Spokane beginning on January 1, 2017.

In addition, new business start-ups will have one year from receiving their first City business license to come into compliance with the law. For example, if a new business starts up on June 1, 2017, that business would have until May 31, 2018 to start providing sick and safe leave to their employees.


3. WA State Initiative 1433 would increase the state minimum wage to $13.50 by 2020



This initiative is not just for King County. This state-wide ballot measure would gradually increase minimum wage starting in 2017 and also require employer paid sick leave.

4. Cybersecurity and Small Business

Security threats are happening every day for America's small businesses. Business owners must be aware of threats to customer data and to its IT infrastructure. Cyber attacks cost small businesses BILLIONS of dollars each year. A small company is at more risk than a larger corporation.  

Congress has moved forward with a Small Business Cyber Security Improvement Act of 2016  which would enable the SBA’s Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) to work with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to assist small businesses in planning for and protecting against cyber security attacks.  In addition, WA State has passed cybersecurity legislation.




The Spokane SBDC intern research team has developed a three-part workshop for small business owners to learn more. Workshops will be held September 28, October 6 and 13th.

Workshop series: Recognize Threats - Restrict Access - Risk Management. For more information or to register, click here. Event is Co-sponsored by: Women’s Business Center INW and Whitworth University, Dornsife Center.

Read more in the FCC free download: 10 Cybersecurity Tips for Small Businesses.


5. Washington State Driver's License - REAL ID non-comp

This may be more of a personal inconvenience rather than a major business concern, but it is something to keep in mind if  you have employees that are flying or conducting operations on military bases.

According to a Fox Q13 press release
"More than two dozen states and territories aren’t in compliance with a 2005 federal law that requires state driver’s licenses and ID cards to have security enhancements and be issued to people who can prove they’re legally in the United States. Eventually, Washington residents who only have standard licenses will need additional ID in order to board commercial aircraft. Already, they are no longer able to use their standard state driver’s licenses as identification to get a visitor’s pass onto Joint Base Lewis-McChord or the Yakima Training Center."

Conclusion: Planning matters.


The more you know about upcoming legislation and recent laws that have passed, the more prepared you will be in running your business. If you have a business in the City of Spokane or have exempt employees, you are at risk of non-compliance and monetary fines if you are not aware of recent changes. Some larger companies have already started making changes; Boeing announced September 14th that it is changing OT rules for 80,000 workers.

Managing risks is more than just preparing for a natural disaster or off-season. As a small business owner, it is one of your most important functions. Staying on top of crucial legislation, national laws, state initiatives and trends can at least help you prepare and plan ahead. 

Your SBDC advisor can help if you need to learn about why cybersecurity is a serious concern, plan out a budget to estimate salary increases or develop a personnel manual or job descriptions.



6 Ways to get the most out of a Conference

If you have worked with a Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Advisor, you are probably aware that we are part of a national network. There are SBDC's in every state and also some international locations.

We are coming up on our annual conference for America's Small Business Development Centers (ASBDC) and I've been prepping for it. Over the years, I have attended many International conferences and found some completely overwhelming. Doing some homework in advance of attending a trade show or conference can help you get the most out of your time.

Here are some things I've found useful in attending past conferences.

1. Do your homework.
2. Plan ahead.
3. Go digital and social.
4. Put down the laptops.
5. Volunteer.
6. Aim for some free time!


1. Do your homework. 

It's a good idea to visit the conference website in advance. This is beneficial for many reasons. You can:

  • Learn about special pre and post conference workshops. Some are free as long as you pre-register. A conference may also offer a pre-conference orientation webinar.
  • Review the session schedule, special events and attendee, vendor and speaker lists.
  • Find out about events for niche groups: first-time attendees, millenials, marketers or guests.
  • Get a feel for the geographic area you are attending. Plan hotel and transportation routes accordingly.

IRCE - Break out session
Last year I attended the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition (IRCE) in Chicago - along with over 10,000 attendees. The exhibit floor alone was larger than a football field and housed over 800 exhibitors. I ended up spending way too much time on one row of the exhibit hall - I should have been more selective. By the time an hour was up, I realized I still had 750 booths to check out. At this point, I realized I needed a different strategy to work the room to gather the information I was seeking.

Another benefit at IRCE was that the conference offered bus transportation from a few select hotels in downtown Chicago. This turned out to be not only convenient but save a lot of time and money. The convention center was located quite a distance from downtown. If I had stayed nearby, I would have had to personally pay for a taxi if I wanted to hit the Miracle Mile or visit any sights in Chicago. The buses got through traffic efficiently and the drop off location was a short walk to my hotel.

2. Plan ahead and follow up. 

Advance contact
could get you
invited to a special event!
Set goals for attending. If your agency is sending you, perhaps they want you to focus on one track and expect you to report back to your peers. For example, this year at ASBDC, I am focusing on marketing, e-commerce and business finance sessions.

Schedule meetings ahead of time. Conferences are for networking, learning and building relationships. If you are in a purchasing or decision-making position, a conference is a good time to schedule visits with potential vendors. The vendors are there to sell services and it is an opportune time to find out about prospective vendors.

Take advantage of opportunites that can help your bottom line. At IRCE, I met some attendees that were highly courted by a few e-commerce vendors. They were there to research potential providers for a robust e-commerce site and in return, were wooed with a VIP reception by a company trying to gain the account.

As part of your planning process, make a follow up plan. Take notes on the back of his or her business card when you meet a person. Connect on LinkedIn. If you met the person in a social setting, you can make a note of what you discussed, perhaps a recent vacation or other common factor.

3. Go digital and social.

The days of taking a gigantic stack of business cards have passed. I haven't given up the habit all the way, but found that the last two conferences I attended I really only needed a few cards, not the 150+ that I packed. Pro tip: our address changed and I take my old business cards to use on drawings and raffles. As long as your email address is the same, that is sufficient.

Trade shows are equipped with QR readers and they can scan attendee badges. They are very efficient at following up, trust me.

Apps are very popular among large conferences, as well as social networking. At our last ASBDC conference, they did not have printed schedules and relied on the app for social activity, session updates and even workshop evaluations.

Most groups will have a hashtag that they encourage attendees to use across social networks. This is a great way to meet your peers as well. I've seen groups form to hit the town, go to dinner or engage speakers.

4. Put down the laptops.

A large conference can be intimidating. It might be out of your comfort zone, but try meeting new people instead of concentrating on your phone.

Unplugging can not only help you focus on the sessions and get a break from work, it may even help you retain information by taking hand-written notes.

5. Volunteer as a moderator or workshop host.

This could be a fun way to get to meet a desired speaker and even take home a special host gift. Conferences rely on numerous volunteers. With hundreds of sessions, they need a large group of volunteers to introduce speakers, moderate panels or distribute handouts.

6. Aim for some free time to recharge your batteries.

Whether it is bookending your travel with an extra vacation day or two or just taking advantage of a free evening, in my opinion, this is one of the most important take-aways from business travel. Sitting for eight hours a day in sessions, maintaining active listening skills in meetings and networking with new people can be exhausting.

Extroverts may thrive on the activity, constant interaction and busy schedule; if you are introverted you may seek out some quiet time to absorb new material or just like to have a quiet dinner alone.

Cloud Gate - Chicago
Followed by a solo dinner!

I am fortunate that the Washington SBDC is supportive of learning, professional development and also encourages employees to use time away from the office to recharge and refuel internally. It is what makes our network of advisors even stronger and valuable to our bottom line - helping our clients.



Friday, June 24, 2016

SBDC Advisors collaborate to help clients navigate aquisition

Washington state SBDC advisors frequently collaborate to help our clients. In this case, advisors from Tri-Cities and Seattle worked together with a client for almost a year to develop a transition plan for a firm recently acquired by a larger firm.

One benefit of working with your local SBDC is that you not only get access to the local advising team, but the entire network of 27 advisors and two international trade specialists across the state.

Read more about the Polestar story:


Polestar Team



Friday, June 17, 2016

New overtime rules effective December 1, 2016

Plan now: New Rules for Payroll Overtime

By Jim Fletcher, Certified Business Advisor, Wenatchee SBDC

In May 2016, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which governs federal minimum wage and overtime pay requirements, was amended. Those changes are effective December 1, 2016.  


What's in your manual?
Do you have an employee handbook?
It is time now to prepare for changes in employee positions. 

If your employees are already eligible for overtime pay, these changes do not affect those positions in any way. However, if you have employees who are classified as exempt from overtime then those position classification are affected. 

What FSLA changed is the limit on when exempt position are eligible for overtime pay. Presently exempt employees making more than $23,660 doubled to $47,476; resulting in a situation where some employee positions will need to be reclassified to non-exempt and will be eligible of overtime pay. 

For some businesses the reclassification of positions can result in other HR issues such where the decision to reclassify workers as nonexempt requires further decisions, such as whether to:

  • Maintain workers’ pay rate and pay additional overtime.
  • Maintain their pay rate but limit their hours.
  • Reduce their pay rate to maintain cost neutrality for overtime worked.
  • Newly nonexempt employees retain their professional duties even though they are now paid overtime.
  • Newly nonexempt employees lose some or all of their professional duties. 


In addition, for employees being reclassified, there are options with respect to their duties, including:
  • Newly nonexempt employees retain their professional duties even though they are now paid overtime.
  • Newly nonexempt employees lose some or all of their professional duties.

Do you need to revise or
develop job descriptions?
As business owners we are keenly aware that changes to any employees position and pay can start a series of adjustments for all employees, an emotional fall out form those who feel they were not given fair consideration. 

Owners and managers need to review their employee positions. Identify any presently exempt positions that will be impacted and plan for appropriate changes.  It is highly recommended that you planning include talking to an HR advisor as well as your payroll accountant. 

Discuss with your advisors overtime controls and policies, setting clear overtime work expectations, compliance with eligibility rules, how to present changes to employees.

Some additional reading:

Overtime is more than an issue of compensation. Effective employee relations strategies can alleviate common confusion and dilemmas surrounding overtime.

As a supervisor of non-exempt employees, you’re responsible for seeing that employees accurately record the time they work and receive overtime when it’s due. This article looks at managing overtime issues through workplace atmosphere, communication, and expectation setting. 

Those businesses that aren’t good at managing employee overtime hours effectively could easily be creating problems for themselves for the present and for the future. 

4 Overtime Traps to Avoidby Chris Kelleher 
Overtime. It's been a law for almost 70 years. If you thought that after all that time every business would know how to follow it, you would be very, very wrong.

Alleging violations of the overtime law is a new "growth industry," with employees (and their lawyers) going after everyone from mom-and-pop businesses to industry giants. To keep your business from becoming yet another lawsuit statistic, here are four common overtime traps and how to avoid them:   

OvertimeManagement Techniquesby Lisa McQuerrey, Demand Media 
Overtime, or time worked beyond a standard 40-hour workweek by hourly, non-exempt employees, can wreak havoc on the operating budget of a small business. 

While there may be times when overtime is necessary and cost-effective, overtime pay can begin to drain your bottom line if not managed correctly. Advance planning and scheduling can help reduce the need for employees to work in excess of their scheduled hours.  

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

SBDC offers Succession Planning for Small Business Owners

By: Certified Business Advisors Jim Fletcher, Wenatchee SBDC and Linda Johnson, Yakima SBDC

Every year hundreds of businesses owners try to make a successful exit by selling their business. Of all who try, 20% are in the best position to find qualified buyers and receive a full offer, 30% fail completely and sell for a liquidation value, if anything.  That means 50% of all who try could do better.

Do you have a plan to sell your business?
Our goal is to help that 50% get a better outcome.  

Planning to sell includes a review of existing financials, preparing a business value assessment and identifying business improvements and actions that can be implemented over the next two to three years to improve the business value when it’s time to sell.

Why are business sales so difficult to finance?

The recession and lack of a meaningful recovery has taken its toll.  There is less buyer’s equity to invest.  In recent years, too many businesses are chasing too few or a limited number of buyers and financial resources. 

In some cases, businesses attempt to keep taxes low and deduct as much as they can, sometimes showing (on paper) a loss to the business each year. A bank is hesitant to finance a loan for a business that shows a loss. In other situations, a business may be made up of intangibles or 'blue sky' that are difficult to determine a value.

If an owner does want to sell the business:
They need to focus their time and energy creating a business that buyers will want. This means working on:
A. Profitability.
B. Competitive edge - to stay profitable.
C. Sustainability - to survive economic downturns.
D. Scalability - so the business grows.
E. Business culture - so good employees stay.
F. Most efforts to transition a business fail because the owner remains an entrepreneur, not a manager.

Business Exit Planning = systematic process.

Goals:
  • Maximize Business Value.
  • Maximize the number of Possible Transition Models Available.
  • Minimize Cost to the business owner.
The process helps identify:
  • Real transition opportunities
  • Business strengths and weaknesses.
  • Risks to a successful exit or succession.
  • Needs of both the business and the owner, now and for their life after business.
  • New wealth opportunities: keeping businesses successful and local.
Cost: There can be costs for an outside planning-level evaluation. Clients may choose to use their own accountant or recommendations can be provided.  

Advising services of the SBDC are at no fee and confidential.  

For more information contact: 

Jim Fletcher, CBA, ABPA  at 509-888-7252; jim.fletcher@wsbdc.org
Linda Johnson, CBA, ABPA at 509-454-7612; linda.johnson@wsbdc.org


Or contact your local SBDC office in Moses Lake,  Okanogan, Pullman, Spokane, Tri-Cities, Walla Walla, Wenatchee or Yakima.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

How one rural small business stayed true to company values and continues to grow

Advisor helps family keep business true to their values


By Hope Belli Tinney, Washington SBDC

WAUCONDA, Wash. – John and Tree Kiesecker had quit their day jobs, he as an orchardist and she as a nurse, and were scrambling to make ends meet when they heard about the free business advising services of the Washington Small Business Development Center. They made an appointment to talk with Lew Blakeney, the SBDC advisor in Okanogan County.

The Washington SBDC is supported by Washington State University and the U.S. Small Business Administration and receives additional support from other institutions of higher education and economic development. Blakeney’s work in Okanogan is supported by the Economic Alliance of Okanogan County.

The Kieseckers
The Kieseckers explained that they wanted to be in business for themselves but weren’t sure what that business would be.

Valuing family, quality, sustainability

 “What’s your goal?” Blakeney asked them.

To make $50 a week for groceries, work hard, be as self-sufficient as possible and be masters of their own fate, they replied. They were still in the “trying things out” stage, Tree said, with John raising 40 cattle on their 560-acre ranch and doing forestry and ranch work while she made jams, jellies, lotions, soaps and other gift items that she sold at farmer’s markets and local stores.

Blakeney suggested they write a business plan – even while their plan was still evolving – and make a list of values they wanted their new business venture to embody. When you look for new opportunities, he said, make sure they align with your values.

Their list of values included caring for their family, working as a team, taking pride in high-quality work, being honest in their dealings, working outdoors, preserving and restoring things of value, creating sustainability, communicating clearly and consistently, being creative and earning financial rewards.

That’s when they came up with Plain-N-Simple (http://www.plain-n-simplellc.com/).

Over the next several years the Kieseckers continued working at a variety of different jobs, Tree said, but yard work and pruning jobs turned into landscaping and then the landscaping jobs got bigger.

They discovered that creating beautiful gardens or landscapes for their clients was satisfying work that matched their core values. They particularly enjoy shining up neglected gems or rescuing entire gardens.

Growing business – and business plan

Terraced and rooftop gardens by Plain-N-Simple.
As the landscape projects got bigger, they realized they needed a new business plan – and business systems and procedures that would keep them on track.
  
“Lew helped us put together a contract for services for use with landscaping customers,” Tree said, “and boy, oh boy, has that saved us.” Blakeney also worked with them on how to bid jobs, introduced them to “change orders” and talked them through filing a lien for non-payment of services.

“He even worked with us on how to talk to customers,” Tree said, “He coached us to say, ‘That may seem like more than you expected, but we owe it to our customers and ourselves to stay in business.’”

Blakeney encouraged the Kieseckers to do more advertising, but Tree said she and her husband prefer to get most of their jobs by word of mouth. By working mostly through referrals, she said, they are more likely to work with clients who know their work and appreciate their way of doing business.

“We choose our clients as carefully as we choose our employees,” Tree said. Though she and John do most of the work themselves, they do hire additional people for bigger jobs.

Setting, achieving greater goals

In a letter to Blakeney earlier this year, Tree wrote that in reviewing the past 10 years, “we can’t help but see all the pitfalls that would have most likely taken out our company” if not for Blakeney’s advising.

In our own small corner of the county, she wrote to Blakeney, “you have benefitted a number of families, including ours.”

From those early days when Tree set a goal of making $50 a week, the Kieseckers have been able to set their sights higher: health insurance, car repairs, children’s braces and, this year, helping with college tuition for one of their daughters.

They aren’t getting rich, Tree said, but they are their own bosses, they enjoy their work and they can provide for their family, which was their goal from the beginning. It’s that plain and simple.

The SBDC office in Okanogan County is located at 320 Omak Ave, #400, Omak, and Blakeney’s phone is 509-826-5107. For more about the SBDC, see https://wsbdc.org/.

Contacts:
Tree Kiesecker, Plain-N-Simple landscaping, 509-486-4257, oldhayseed@gmail.com
Lew Blakeney, Washington SBDC in Okanogan County, 509-826-5107,blakeney@methow.com



Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Trade mission to Korea matches up businesses with new markets

Businesses head to South Korea to explore new markets

By Hope Belli Tinney, Washington SBDC

MOSES LAKE, Wash. – Business owners from Grant County are headed to South Korea April 26 for an eight-day trade mission to explore export opportunities for Eastern Washington products ranging from flour to exercise equipment.

Ray Towry, president of the nonprofit Grant County Economic Development Council (EDC), will head the nine-person delegation: “This is an amazing opportunity to directly introduce five Grant County-based businesses to markets abroad,” he said.

Five business owners are part of the group, but they will represent several other companies including Fresh Nature Foods, Cascade Mills Flour, Trinidad Lavender, Whiskey Gap Distillery, Bartelson Transport, Bowman Orchards and reACT Trainer.

Jenkins and Peterson (r)
Other members of the delegation include Vern Jenkins, an international trade specialist with the Washington Small Business Development Center (SBDC), and Allan Peterson, an SBDC business advisor located in Moses Lake.

Face-to-face followup builds on sister city relationship


“These companies have already been working on export opportunities in South Korea with recent market research provided by the Washington SBDC intern research team,” Jenkins said. “So we know that the potential for export sales is there. This mission is an important step in developing the face-to-face relationships that are so important in international trade.”

The group will visit various cities, but most of their meetings will be in Gunpo, just south of Seoul. Jenkins, who works with small business owners to build export readiness and export capacity, said Kyle Kim of the Korean International Trade Association and Danny Kim, a representative with the Washington State Department of Agriculture, were extremely helpful in setting up one-on-one meetings for this business-to-business trade event.

The trade mission is a followup to a visit that a Gunpo delegation made to Grant County in September. Grant County and Gunpo have had a sister city relationship since 2003.

When Peterson learned a group of business and civic leaders would visit in fall 2015, he offered to set up a small trade expo of Eastern Washington products. It was so successful that those involved wanted to keep the momentum going.

Exporting can transform small business


“The great thing about exporting, especially in rural areas, is that businesses are finding new markets or new customers outside the U.S., but the jobs are staying here,” Peterson said.

He said the business owners received STEP grants from the Washington Department of Commerce to help defray the cost of airfare, but are otherwise paying their own expenses.

“Developing a strong export plan can really transform a business,” he said, “and it’s exciting for the SBDC to be able to walk this journey with our clients.”

Towry, who has been with Grant County EDC since 2012 and is director of recreation, tourism and public relations for the City of Ephrata, said he is excited to see the relationship grow, and he credits the SBDC with making that happen.

“The work that Allan and Vern have put into this, to develop a traditional ‘sister city’ relationship into an economic partnership, could pay huge dividends for our region,” he said. “It was a great idea on their part.”

The Washington SBDC is hosted by Washington State University and receives funding from the U.S. Small Business Administration. The SBDC in Moses Lake is also affiliated with the Grant County EDC.

UPDATED: The contingency returned May 3rd and are pleased with the results of the trade mission.  We will have more updates as we wrap up the interviews.

Contacts:
Allan Peterson, Moses Lake, Wash., SBDC, 509-762-6040, allan.peterson@wsbdc.org
Vern Jenkins, SBDC international trade specialist, 509-358-7998, vern.jenkins@wsbdc.org